This humorous family drama is a first person account of what happens when your embarrassing dad becomes an internet sensation. Even for a computer-game addict like Nelson, it’s not as brilliant as it sounds.
When Nelson’s mum abandons him and his sister with little explanation, he is desperate to persuade her to return to the family home, but he has to find her first and, for that, he needs money – lots of money. It’s not easy to make money when you’ve got school for most of the day so Nelson does what any right-minded tech-addict would do; he starts making YouTube videos.
Nelson’s vlogs are utter failures and he soon realises that setting up a webcam and chatting about your favourite games is not as easy as it looks. To make matters worse, his embarrassing dad, emulating his favourite TV survival expert, suddenly sells all of Nelson’s electronics and moves the family out to the middle of nowhere to live the simple life in ‘the bosom of nature!’
When Nelson stops giggling at the word ‘bosom’, the true horror of his new situation begins to dawn on him. No TV. No Xbox. No laptop. He is forced to munch on old fish and foul porridge and he learns that ‘nature’s bounty’ has nothing to do with chocolate.
As it turns out, Dad’s ridiculous determination to shun all modern comforts is perfect material for Nelson’s YouTube project and, before long, Nelson’s plan to gather enough cash to go and find his mum is coming together. That’s when the real problems start.
It’s virtually impossible to keep secrets from a person who is an internet celebrity, even when their home has no electricity (or even an indoor toilet) and Nelson’s attempts to conceal his vlogging exploits are a frequent source of humour. Indeed there is much to laugh at in this story, especially when Skarfwick the sweary harbourmaster comes to call, and there is one particularly hilarious moment involving Elvis Presley and a dead goldfish.
The book is also originally designed, arranged to look like a screen, complete with battery status and progress bars, and Lowery’s illustrations, used sparingly, are simple, line drawn cartoons that add to the comedy.
Ben Davis has written a story that raises interesting questions about our use of technology and its impact on families and friendships and his book also reminds readers of the importance of honesty, empathy and of sticking together when standing up to bullies. Though Nelson’s journey is an interesting one, with plenty of laughs along the way, it is rather predictable and its heavy reliance upon such modern, fast-moving themes may mean that it does not live for too long in readers’ memories.